History’s Future: An Inside Look at the New Historical Society Complex – Columbia Missourian

PROJECT: State Historical Society Center for Missouri Studies




Bennito L Kelty, Missourian, 2/24/17

COLUMBIA — Twice as much gallery space, including sections devoted to Thomas Hart Benton and George Caleb Bingham. A multipurpose room that seats 250, a gift shop and classrooms for public use. That's a glimpse of what will be on the inside of new headquarters of the State Historical Society of Missouri. The new complex will be named the Center for Missouri Studies, which is also the name of an educational initiative the State Historical Society began in 2014.

Architectural drawings of the exterior of the three-story Center for Missouri Studies at Sixth and Elm streets were released in August. As the April 19 groundbreaking approaches, the Historical Society is sharing drawings and descriptions from the architectural firm Gould Evans of what the 75,000-square-foot building will look like on the inside. Gallery space will double the 3,000 square feet that’s available at the Historical Society's current headquarters adjacent to Ellis Library on the MU campus.

Joan Stack, curator of art collections for the State Historical Society, said the extra gallery space will accommodate more works of George Caleb Bingham and Thomas Hart Benton in permanent displays. There will also be sections devoted to works from a collection of over 15,000 editorial cartoons, drawings, paintings and lithographs. Benton, an American artist from Missouri famous for murals like “A Social History of Missouri” in the state Capitol, will have two separate galleries. The separate section will feature all 10 of Benton's World War II paintings, including “The Year of Peril Series” held by the State Historical Society. Bingham's section will feature the celebrated paintings "Watching the Cargo" and "General Order No. 11," a selection of his portraits and his 19th century lithographs. Stack plans to use other gallery space for rotating exhibits.

“We’re hoping to use the space to open up a lot of interesting topics,” Stack said. “We hope to help people better understand how arts reflects all aspects of history.”

The new building is expected to be finished in 2019. The 3,400-square-foot multi-purpose room will seat 250 for events and 200 for dinners. The room will be outfitted with movable seating, staging and audio and visual equipment paid for with the same construction bonds used to finance the $35 million building. Mary Ellen Lohmann of the State Historical Society said events in the multi-purpose room will mostly be planned by the organization, but the intention is to make the room available for public events as well.

The Center for Missouri Studies will also afford opportunities for traveling exhibitions by the Smithsonian Institution, Lohmann said. Events like the African American Experience in Missouri Lecture Series, which have been held in Jesse Auditorium and Stotler Lounge, will be held in the multi-purpose room. The second floor will house a research center where the public can examine more than 4,000 maps, over 3,975 newspaper titles dating back to 1808 and historical artifacts such as journals kept by William Clark during his 1798 trip down the Mississippi River.

Laura Jolley, assistant director of manuscripts with the State Historical Society, said that more manuscripts such as maps and letters will be on location instead of in storage, and a committee responsible for adding material to the archives will be able to accept more submissions. A boardroom and two classrooms featuring whiteboards and seating for 30 will also be available for public use.

The third floor will house administrative offices, a conservation lab and digitization lab, all of which will be closed to the public. The conservation lab, which is responsible for treating damaged material like tears and stains on documents, will use the extra space to start repairing large documents that have been waiting for more than 15 years, including the Missouri Statehood petition from 1817. Lohmann said she expects the new center to create opportunities for students and residents. The Center for Missouri Studies fellowship, which carries a $5,000 stipend, will be able to increase the range of topics available for study and may increase the number of applicants it can accept.

The State Historical Society will also be able to offer more internships, Lohmann said. These internships will be more interdisciplinary and not restricted to history students. The complex will border Elm Street on the south end of the lot. A two-story parking garage with private financing is planned immediately to the north of the new headquarters. The Heinkel building will remain. The building’s design is intended to replicate Missouri’s geological features. The top of the building is shaped to look like river lines on a map while the building will be limestone-clad. The new location was selected with the idea of of being more visible to Columbia residents, not just MU.

“We have a unique role as part of the university and Columbia,” Lohmann said. “As a part of the district, people will find us in a way they couldn’t before.”

Supervising editor is John Schneller.